Sunday, September 11, 2011

Marvel Ultimate Alliance - Weak!, Cool!, ...OK

Several new games I'm interested in are going to be released in the next couple of months, but in the meantime lately I've been playing through a few other current-gen games that have been sitting on my shelf for a while.  Yesterday I finally made my way around to trying Marvel Ultimate Alliance for the Xbox 360, which I bought quite a long time ago packaged with Forza Motorsports 2 for like $8 - I used to be a big fan of superhero comic books and I figured hey 2 games for $8 you can't really beat that.

Ultimate Alliance is an action RPG where you control a team of 4 superheroes - interchangeable with like 10 backups - and are trying to beat, kick, and zap your way through a colorful variety of Marvel Universe backdrops and ton of bad guys to get to Dr. Doom who is trying to take over the world - or something to that effect. I elected to jot down my thoughts immediately as I played it and it turned out to be a bit of a roller coaster ride of pleased versus displeased for me.  Below are my unaltered trains of thought after 1 hour, 4 hours, and 6 hours of play. Well, unaltered save for a bit of editing to shorten - I do tend to get rather wordy sometimes - maximum verbosity and all that.  Yes believe it or not it was longer before I chopped it. And yes, I realize that it is still way too long to expect anyone to read it but there's no turning back now so here it is.

Hour 1 (Weak):
Well the graphics look decidedly PS2/XBox-gen which is a little discouraging for a current-gen game even one that is several years old. The speech acting isn't too bad but the dialogue is SO pathetically juvenile that even the best voice over wouldn't be able to get much out of it. When the NPCs talk to you in non-cut scenes it shows a little DOS-style picture of the face of whoever is talking next to a transcript of what they are saying with a little 'push A to respond with this canned response" continue mechanic - wow - that doesn't even taste like last-gen that is more NES/GBA.

OK there's an obstacle that we have to navigate around, well no problem Iron Man can fly, so easy enough to... hmm - his jet boots seem to have an altitude ceiling of about 8 feet off the ground - well that doesn't make sense. The camerawork is rather clunky - lets you pan from left to right halfway decently but you get nothing out of up and down. And a couple of time the camera didn't switch to the proper angle so you see your guys disappear around a corner and then you are staring at a wall hearing the sounds of battle in the next room.

And why the hell do all these characters keep writhing around so much when they are standing in place telling me things? Radioactive Man is practically giving me a table dance. And I don't find him sexy at all. Way too muscly.  Oh - and as with a lot of these kinds of team-oriented games where your AI teammates get all up in your space I find myself playing a lot of a game I like to call "get the hell out of my way". I've also already played one brief round of "I'm stuck in the fucking corner".

One nice thing I noticed is that if I decide to start smashing a random piece of conduit or machinery out of nowhere, my team is understandably puzzled for a moment but then starts beating the hell out of it too in support. I like that kind of loyalty - don't ask me why - just hit it!

The story? Virtually nonexistent. I don't have to have a good story to enjoy a game, but don't pretend to sell me a story and then just sew together a bunch of mediocre-to-boring gameplay missions because that ain't gonna cut it.  BUT all that being said it isn't like it's unplayable and I have always been a comic book fan (and more of a Marvel guy over DC) so I really want to like this game.  So even though so far it almost seems like a beta I'm going to hang in there with it. It definitely seems to be more tailored toward kids as opposed to adult gamers though.

My beginning rating = 6.2.

Hours 2-4 (Cool): 
[MadPlanet really wandered off the path into a lot of comic book jibber jabber here - Editor]
OK I decided to go a bit more hipster and switch out some of the Marvel Universe flag-bearers on the team for some of the lesser known B-siders off the bench.

Right off the bat I pick Moon Knight because I used to collect his title back in the day. He doesn't even have any powers he is just a strong but slightly mentally unstable man who has learned many fighting styles with which to kick ass and since he is fortunate enough to be rich he can also afford all kinds of expensive gadgets, vehicles, and weapons - OK he's basically Marvel's version of Batman. Moon Knight does have a pretty cool back-story though - he is a former mercenary who was left for dead out in the desert after one of his mercenary gigs went south.  He finds his way into an ancient tomb where he collapses at the foot of a statue of Konshu the God of the Moon (is that a real Egyptian god?  note to self - Google later) and dies.  Then, a bit later, he is resurrected by Konshu to fight injustice - or maybe he's just nuts - either way he slips into a costume styled on the moon-crested hoodie look that Konshu pioneered and now kicks criminal ass - mostly the lesser grade hoods - not Galactus or anything.

Scrolling through the bench warmers I see... Elektra - meh she's fairly obscure and hot but I was never a big Daredevil fan. Iceman?  Yeah maybe back in the day before the X-Men movies and all the cartoons - now everybody knows that guy. Colossus - yeah - I always liked Colossus and he only has a bit part in one the X-Men movies so he's still relatively obscure - OK added Colossus to the team.

Hey they have Luke Cage!  Or his full name as I used to know it - Luke Cage, Power Man!  He looks a little different now - more normal-looking clothing, but obviously still one bad mother fucker. Luke Cage was the only dude bad enough to be able pull off the look he sported back when I collected Power Man and Iron Fist in the late '70s - early '80s. How many guys can walk around in a bright yellow silk puffy shirt unbuttoned to the navel with blue skinny jeans, a chain-link belt, and a sterling silver tiara headband and still look ready, willing and able to really fuck you up if you even think about saying anything.

That, gentlemen, is self-confidence. My hat's off to Mr. Cage - I never even had the nerve to wear my bolo-tie that I bought back when I was in my country music phase in the early 80's. I think I may have worn it to a Dwight Yoakam concert once (hey didn't you get one too FallGuy or am I imagining that?). So anyway YES Luke Cage you are on the squad. Dude you just keep on dressing like you want to dress and to hell with society's so-called rules!

Speaking of which, I'm still waiting for the Power Man and Iron Fist movie.  It is the tried-and-true odd couple formula spiced up with a good dose of 70's pop culture and a liberal sprinkling of ethnic/cultural stereotypes.  Felix and Oscar, Starskey and Hutch, Tango and Cash - Power Man and Iron Fist. Both New Yorkers - one is a bullet-proof bad-ass street-smart take no shit black dude from Harlem with a heart of gold but who has no problem notching your skull with his chain link belt if you eyeball him on the street. The other is a quiet contemplative overly-docile wealthy white pacifist who when pushed far enough will be happy to demonstrate to you in fashionable green and yellow spandex with ribbon accents that not only is he an expert in the martial arts, but he can also literally make his fist as hard as freaking iron so when he chops your ass with it there can be no doubt that it is going to fucking hurt in the morning. Oh the hijinx they got into. Hell I bet Quentin Tarantino already has it on his short-list of projects.

But I digress - back to the game. Still need one more - OK Ms. Marvel you're up. Moving on.

So right away I'm fighting a guy as Moon Knight.  The game plays some heavy fight music when you go into battle and at first it seemed goofy, but now that I've put myself more in the right frame of mind I kinda like it. After Moon Knight beats this nameless goon he yells out "another victory for you Konshu!". OK more terrible dialogue but it resonated with my comic past and now this stuff has almost morphed into a "so bad it's kinda good" type of deal...

Hmmm - I see the characters all have various XP and stats and gear that you can equip and level up etc - so it's an RPG too eh? (I didn't realize that at the time)  OK, a little deeper than I first thought - might be cool.  Oh shit I just saw an unlockable hidden option in Luke Cage's outfit - I bet it's that classic puffy shirt/jean ensamble. Hell that's almost enough right there to keep me going. OK switching to Luke Cage.

"You lose small-fry!" - Luke Cage after chain-slapping one dude unconscious.
"Next time - run away!" - Luke Cage after smashing one guy's face repeatedly into the ground.
"Guess that means... I win!" - L.C. after... well you get the picture.

Luke Cage does excellent work.

My mid-way rating = 7.8

Hours 5-6 (OK):
Well I have thoroughly enjoyed holding guys off the ground and punching them as Luke Cage and hey Ms. Marvel can kick some ass too, but the the initial shine of the comic book connection is beginning to dull a bit for me. Although I still find the game to be pretty decent and could very well come back to it to finish, the gameplay is getting a little old so I might not. The RPG elements seem to be a little tacked on and you really don't need to even pay attention to them at all to play the game so despite the extra details and options it is really just more of an action game. It basically feels like a Diablo-skinned version of the old 2D X-Men arcade game which is fine but I've never been a huge fan of the beat 'em up brawler.  My favorite part was actually reminiscing about Power Man - so maybe I'll just go dig a few comics out of the closet.

I will say that this another of those games that I feel like would be better if you played multiplayer with some friends, but as is often the case I don't know anyone that has it and am not into playing with random strangers online - so I can only base my opinion on the single-player game experience I had. Either way though I got about 6 hours of pretty good fun out of it for $4 so I feel like I got my money's worth.

My final rating = 7.3

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Fallguy40 said...

MUA is one of those games I always wanted to try but never got around to it. It always kind of got lost in the shuffle for me.

Marvel and DC should have teamed up for a Luke Cage/Black Lightning collaboration. Did you ever see the time on SNL when Sinbad (I think it was Sidbad) showed up as Black Lightning to Superman's funeral and no one knew who he was?

MadPlanet said...

Yeah I put off buying it for a long time and then just happened to see it in Gamestop one day for dirt cheap for a 2-fer so I got it. Let me know if you ever pick it up out of the bargain bin and we can try the co-op - I bet the co-op is probably pretty good. They have MUA2 now and by now I bet it is dirt cheap too.

Yeah that would have been one bad-ass team up. I have some Black Lightning comics too - coincidentally he ALSO wore a puffy silk shirt open down to his belt but with lightning bolts on the sleeves.

I DO remember the Sinbad as Black Lightning bit on SNL - that was classic!

Fallguy40 said...

You are playing this on Xbox, right? If so, then I don't have an Xbox. Next gen I might switch over to the Xbox and see what it's all about.

MadPlanet said...

oh yeah that's right - I have it on 360. oh well never mind I suppose.

gnome said...

Wow, you've got an intervening editor embedded in the blog. How very lovely :)

MadPlanet said...

Hey Gnome. Yeah, he tries to keep me on track when I'm starting to derail a bit too much. And he's surprisingly affordable! :)

gnome said...

Excellent, excellent. I do hope he helps with those cables too.